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Millennial women on track to make 70% of men’s earnings at age 45

A young business woman crossing her arms while her co-workers chat in the background.
New data reveals millennial women in Australia will earn just 70% of men’s earnings at age 45. (Source: Getty) (Maskot via Getty Images)

A report has revealed that, at every age and stage of their working lives, the majority of Australian women are not working full-time.

As a result, women are missing out on management roles - which are almost exclusively full-time positions - and the bigger salaries that come with those roles, according to the report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

The Wages and Ages: Mapping the Gender Pay Gap by Age data series is the first time WGEA data has been broken down by age.

It showed that in 2021, Australian men out-earned women across every generation, with the peak at ages 55-64 where men out-earn women by $40,000 on average per year.


WGEA director Mary Wooldridge told Yahoo Finance she was “shocked but also not surprised” at the results overall, but said it was notable that the data showed that no more than 50 per cent of women were working full time at any given time over their lives, compared to men, even in the earlier years.

Wooldridge also said the divergence of men and women’s salaries at the age of 30 was stark and the disparity continued and got worse as time went on, with little chance of catching up.

The overall data suggests millennial women will be on track to earn 30 per cent less than men of the same age by the age of 45.

Even women who hold executive and senior roles later in life never regain lost ground in terms of pay.

The report shows that senior executive and CEO roles held by women by the age of 55 will earn $93,000 less a year, on average, than their male senior executive and CEO counterparts.

Wooldridge said many employers were missing out on a huge talent pool by not taking a more flexible approach to working life as well as parental leave policies, childcare subsidies and support, and flexible work policies, which included targets for male and female uptake.

Wooldridge added that workplaces must enable progression opportunities for part-time workers.

“With effective policies, workplaces can both enable women to work full-time - if they chose to - and make higher-paid managerial roles more accessible for those who work part-time,” she said.

She said the trend for the majority of senior management roles being full-time meant many women were missing out on opportunities because of a lack of flexibility despite women being highly educated and at times outnumbering men in higher education enrolments and completion.

“Not only does this mean fewer women end up in senior management roles but they also miss out on the earning potential that comes with those roles.”

An infographic demonstrating the different wages of women compared to men at different ages.
(Source: WGEA data 2021)

As the fallout from the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns continues to change the way many Australians work and live, Wooldridge does see these changes as a way of helping to solve the current approach to work as well as taking advantage of a tight employment market.

“Employees can be part of demanding the change that we need to see in this market.” she said.

“The evidence shows companies have better productivity and value if they have a balance of men and women in their leadership.”

What employers can do:

• Encourage flexible work for men and women

• Set and monitor targets for men and women equally

• Rethink leadership roles – offer part-time and job-sharing roles for managers

• Provide access to affordable child care

What employees can do

• When considering job offers, see how workplaces compare on the availability of paid parental leave, gender balance in leadership, or if the company takes action on gender equality through regular pay audits.

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